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WOMAN'S LIFE 135
In the ninth century a widow was greatly praised by the Confucian males for cutting off her arm because a hotel-keeper had dragged her by it, when she was refused entrance on her way home accompanying her husband's coffin. In the Mongol Dynasty another widow was greatly honoured for refusing to show her ulcered breast to the doctor and heroically dying of it.1
In the Ming Dynasty this doctrine of chaste widowhood became an official institution. Women who kept their widowhood from any age under thirty to the age of fifty were officially honoured with pailou, and their families were exempt from official labour service. It became then not only highly moral to admire purity of character in women, but also highly convenient for the male relatives to do so. Chaste widowhood became not only popular with the men and the widows* relatives, but also became one of the easiest ways for women to distinguish themselves. They lent honour, not only to their own families but to their whole village or clan. In this sense it had truly become a popular obsession, with just a few occasional protests from independent minds. It ^as this doctrine of chaste widowhood that caused Confucianism to be denounced during the '"Renaissance" of 1917 as a "man-eating religion."
Along with the development of Confucian theory a stream of real life was going on, based on social conventions^ and still more on economic pressure. More important than*- the influence of Confucianism was the fact that men controlled the purse. For while Confucianism had erected chaste widowhood into a religion, jewels and pearl necklaces, which had nothing to do with Confucianism, turned women into concubines and cocottes. The accumulation of wealth and the rise of great houses during the Wei and Ch'in Dynasties, coupled with the general political disorder, encouraged concubinage on the one hand and forced the drowning of baby girls on the other, owing to the fact that poor parents could not provide for the
1 Most of these stories can be found in the ofl&cial histories c/f the different dynasties, where special sections are devoted to lives of great women, along with those of men. A woman who distinguished herself by committing suicide to guard her chastity had a fair chance of leaving her name in literature in ottfl form or another.